The Principle of the Path
by Randy Youngling
As I have been reading through the Book of Proverbs, I have noticed the presence of several words that I might have skipped over in the past. Words like “way(s),” “path(s),” and even the word “highway.” The suggestion seems to be that the author is alerting us to the fact that in life, we are all going somewhere, we’re all on a path heading in a particular direction whether or not we’re aware of it.
This is where Pastor Andy Stanley’s The Principle of the Path becomes incredibly relevant. It simply states:
Direction – Not Intention – Determines Destination
For instance, if I intend to drive from Spring, Texas, to visit my daughters and their families in Frisco, Texas, a far north suburb of Dallas, and I go to I-45 and turn south, towards Houston, I will not make it to my intended destination. It doesn’t matter how much I desire or intend to get to Frisco, if I go the wrong direction, in this case south instead of north, I won’t get there. Why? Because Direction – Not Intention – Determines Destination.
This is a principle that applies to every area of our lives.
Here are a few more examples:
A young Christian woman intends to marry a Christian guy who has his spiritual life together and is serious about his relationship with God – then she dates anyone who asks her out, as long as he’s cute.
A young man who is a new Christian intends to develop a deep intimacy with and love for the Lord – then he gets up early every morning and reads the newspaper and checks his social media feeds.
A freshman in high school intends to earn a grade point average that will give him the best chance of being accepted at the colleges of his choice – then he neglects his studies and spends his time playing video games.
A young athlete hopes to make the varsity team – then she skips workouts and doesn’t focus on developing the skills necessary to make that team.
A married couple wants to raise godly children who love and follow Jesus – then they don’t model for their children what that might look like.
In each of these cases, the intention is healthy and positive, even praiseworthy. But regardless of how strong those intentions might be, regardless of how much the person wants to achieve their stated goals, the directions they are heading won’t get them there. Our direction, or “path” in life, will always determine our destination.
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Assess the Path
I have discovered that it is crucial for me to very frequently pause, take a step back, and assess the “path” I am on taking into consideration the principle of the path. Is my life heading in a direction that will take me to the destination at which I want to arrive?
What if, after honest assessment, I realize my current direction in life is not taking me where I intend to go? The author of the Book of Proverbs adds a helpful nugget of truth that I need to heed in order to make course corrections that will get me headed in the right direction.
“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12)
Throughout the Proverbs, the word “prudent” is used interchangeably with the word “wise.” Here we are told that a wise person pays attention to the path they are traveling so, when danger of any kind is on the horizon, they can “take refuge.” When the path we are on is taking us somewhere we don’t want to end up, the wise person changes directions or, in the words of Proverbs 27:12, “takes refuge.” The key here is to pay attention and be mindful of the path we are on. This is how we can make sure we stay on the right path or, in some cases, get on the right path for the first time.
The word “simple” means “naïve.” This is the person who doesn’t take the time to stop and consider their path. They just keep going, naively thinking they will get to their intended destination. But as we have seen, direction, not intention, determines our destination. By staying on the wrong path, the “simple” will eventually “suffer for it.” They will experience the consequences of traveling the wrong path.
When was the last time we paused to seriously consider if the path we are on is taking us where we say we want to go? Where do we want to go? Is the path we’re on taking us there? If not, what course corrections do we need to make to get on the right path?
The Principle of the Path is inviolable. Our direction in life, not our intentions, regardless of how good they might be, determines our destination. Is it time to do some assessment?
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
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